NFL 2013 Schedule: Debating Which Teams Got Screwed This Season
Now that we've had a chance to take a look at exactly how the 2013 NFL schedule looks with dates, times and locations written in virtual stone, we can draw some conclusions regarding which teams will have tougher rides than others.
Based on a combination of bad timing and degree of difficulty in general, here's a look at seven teams that, in my opinion, drew short straws in 2013.
The Atlanta Falcons have been sort of ordinary in December in recent years. This year, they absolutely won't be able to afford sluggish performances in the final month of the season.
After a relative gimme against the Bills on Dec. 1, the Falcons have 2012 playoff teams Green Bay, Washington and San Francisco in back-to-back-to-back weeks, with only the matchup with the Redskins falling at the Georgia Dome.
So, Atlanta will want to create some space in the NFC South early, but that won't be easy, either. The Saints are expected to be players again now that Sean Payton's back, and the Falcons have to travel to the Superdome for New Orleans' home opener in Week 1. It's a first-place schedule from there, leading to that rough ride in the season's final month.
The first five weeks for the Cincinnati Bengals: Chicago, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cleveland and New England. The Bears are fast starters, the Steelers and Packers are the Steelers and Packers, the Browns should be a lot better and the Patriots won more games than any other team in football in 2012.
Now, I know what you're saying to yourself. You're saying, "But, self, at least the Bengals are only on the road for two of those games."
The problem? Cincinnati is one of only a select few NFL teams that is better away than at home. In the Andy Dalton/A.J. Green era, the Bengals have only gone 8-8 at Paul Brown Stadium while posting an 11-5 record on the road.
Green Bay Packers
When the Green Bay Packers host the Lions after their bye in Week 6, they might be playing the easiest game on their schedule. Against the AFC North, the NFC East, Atlanta and San Francisco, there's pretty much no room for error on Green Bay's schedule.
They open up against three straight 2012 playoffs teams, with two of those games on the road, and then have to deal with the defending champion Ravens after the bye and that "easy" Detroit game.
It'll be very hard for the Pack to win more than three of their first five games, and the schedule never really eases after that.
Four of the Jacksonville Jaguars' first six games are away from home, with tough matchups with the talented Chiefs and the improved Colts sprinkled in at home. After that, it's the Chargers and 49ers before a midseason bye.
Considering how bad the Jags are already, that kind of first-half sked is deadly. I really can't see Gus Bradley's team starting 2013 any better than 2-6. And once you've dug a hole like that, well, see ya in 2014.
We could be eulogizing the 2013 Miami Dolphins during their Week 6 bye. The Phins open up in Cleveland against a Browns team that is finally expected to be a real player this year after a solid offseason, and then in Indianapolis against a Colts team that has gotten significantly better in the offseason as well.
When they finally open up at home in Week 3, they host the Falcons, who had the NFC's best record in 2012. Then it's back on the road for the high-flying Saints (complete with Sean Payton) at the Superdome, before a home tilt with the defending champion Ravens.
There's a good chance they'll be underdogs in all five of those games. At least they get the Bills after the bye, but then it's two more playoff teams in New England and Cincinnati. I just don't know if Miami has the ability to survive that start.
If the Tennessee Titans surprise everyone and emerge as contenders in 2013, the lights will probably be turned out in early December. That's because the Titans have to deal with three straight road games between Week 12 and Week 14.
The first game forces them to travel to Oakland. Not a particularly tough opponent, but it's a cross-country trip. And then they're forced to follow that up with two straight 2012 playoff teams in Indianapolis and Denver.
There's a decent chance they go 0-3 during that stretch, which would likely be a death knell.
The Washington Redskins haven't had to play a first-place schedule since Bill Clinton was in the White House. And while that doesn't mean a whole lot in the NFL, where only two games differ between divisional opponents, it hurts a Washington team that only won 10 games and barely pulled out the NFC East last season.
Because the Skins finished first, the two unique teams that only they have to play are Atlanta and San Francisco, who finished first and second in the NFC last year.
In addition to that, the Redskins have to open up—possibly without Robert Griffin III—against the completely unpredictable Eagles and their brand-new coaching staff, before traveling to play the Packers in Green Bay's home opener in Week 2. They could recover before their Week 5 bye, but that then means 12 consecutive games down the stretch with road trips against reigning playoff teams Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.
Repeating won't be easy. But on the bright side, if they don't, someone else will have that first-place sked in 2014.